Thursday, May 26, 2011

Gauging Gas

I didn't want to fly to Carole's wedding. It was an option and I do like to fly, but anymore, it's such a hassle. I couldn't afford to buy a ticket back when the date was set and then, as the time marched on and the costs rose, the ticket became more and more out of my reach. At one point, I honestly thought I wasn't going to be able to go to the wedding, simply because my finances wouldn't allow it. But judicious skrimping and saving and doing without allowed me to save what I considered to be adequate funds to make an over-the-road trip. Plus, driving would allow me to see people from Spectacular Death and that's important to me.

Enter gas prices. In April, I watched them race towards $5 a gallon. The week before Bin Laden was killed, gas was $4.55 in Glen Ellyn. I paid $4.61 in Chicago on May 15th. At that time, it was much less in the 'burbs, but I needed gas then and didn't have much of a choice.

My mother was going to bring her Durango in spite of the 12-15 mpg.. My Jeep will get 15-17, so it wasn't that much better. The day before she arrived, I did the numbers and realized I was going to be short and would wind up charging more than I really wanted to. I could skip meals, I tend to do that anyway when I'm traveling, but it was going to be really tight. The saving grace on this was splitting the costs of travel and the fact that 2 of our days were going to be at April and Perry's which would save us a bundle on lodging. Then, when mom's husband insisted she drive his car with the 26-27 mpg gas mileage, I knew this would work.

She filled the car for $3.60 in Iowa. Our first gas stop was the first place on the Indiana toll road. I decided that I should stop when we got to a quarter tank and not push it. Running out of gas is not cool. We were pleased with this gas price as it was $4.29 around me.

We discovered that Dale's car would get us from Point A to Point B on one tank. This was a godsend. It eliminated a fill-up each day. That saved us $130-$160. Knowing this savings made the trip less stressful.

Our next fill-up was in Youngstown, Ohio on Thursday. We went to breakfast with April and Perry and then to get gas. We were excited at the prospect of gas at this price. But, we are heading towards the DC area. Who knows what it will be there? We were expecting the metro-Washington area to have higher prices than Youngstown and were bracing for that.

Nope. We filled up on Saturday on the way to the wedding. David's dad needed gas as did I so I filled up at $3.69 a gallon. We did see gas at $3.68 in Warrenton, but the place we stopped at was on the way to the church. Easy in and easy out.

We didn't do much driving on Saturday so this tank took us out of Virginia on Sunday as we began the trek home. The directions I had from Yahoo to get to Warrenton, took us over some 2 lane roads. While it was the most direct route, it wasn't that scenic and really wasn't that fast. I bought a road atlas on Sunday and we went a different route back, through the mountains. Amazingly, our gas mileage, even with the ups and downs, hovered around 27 mpg. Our next fill-up was in Morgantown, West Virginia on Tuesday morning.

We thought it was interesting that this large sign doesn't list diesel as an option. That last line is for "kero", which we took to mean "kerosene".

This tank took us back to Youngstown and across Ohio. Yes, at the spot where I broke down back in November, I thumbed my nose. Maybe that's tempting fate but it was good to sail past that spot.

Our last fill-up was also the priciest. I let it get into the "red" zone, where we're running on the last little bit. I made the decision to stop at the first service plaza in Indiana after we crossed from Ohio. I wasn't sure how far we were from getting off and getting back on and didn't want to make a bad decision to wait and risk running out. We were quite astounded at the prices way out in eastern Indiana. Oh well. We hadn't paid this at any point in the trip and this tank would get us back to Wheaton and get mom to Iowa where she could fill up for much less.

This was at a Mobil. As we traveled west towards Chicago, plazas changed from Mobil to BP. In doing so, gas prices dropped 40 cents. It was kind of depressing but I knew we couldn't have made any of the BP stations. Maybe Mobil is the only company who will provide gas at those lonesome stations, but it seemed very out of whack with what we saw advertised on billboards and with what we encountered closer to Chicago.

It's $4.19 today. I need to put gas in the Jeep. I remember, in 1973, during the Arab Oil Embargo, we were going to take a family trip to northern Minnesota and one of the questions we asked the places we were staying was if they had gas. We had seen supplies run short in our small town as well as the images of lines stretching for miles as people waited for those limited deliveries. Even after that experience, we never really thought of trips with an eye towards gas prices. Now, you have to.

Would it have been cheaper to fly? I don't know. I would have needed to rent a car for 3 days, fill it with gas. I wouldn't have had the chance to spend a week with my mom, nor would I have seen April and Perry and Joe. I wound up coming in right at what I had budgeted which makes me feel really good, that I was able to figure this out.

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea


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